A controversial performance artist who shocked audiences when he inserted a flag into his rear on stage two years ago was awarded a cultural prize by the Tel Aviv Municipality on Thursday.
Ariel Bronz was named the winners of this year’s Rosenblum Prize for Promising Young Artists, and awarded NIS 9,000 ($2,500) by the city.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev slammed the decision to honor Bronz as “ridiculous,” saying it proved the need for a controversial law that would deny state funding from cultural institutions deemed not sufficiently “loyal” to the state.
Bronz was investigated by police 2016 in wake of complaints over his insertion of the flag into his rear end during a performance at a cultural conference in Tel Aviv.
Bronz, who was clad in high heels and a short pink skirt for his performance, pelted the audience with oranges before inserting the flag. Ushers rushed him off the stage as the audience booed.
In Israel, defacing the national flag or other state symbols is illegal. After a brief investigation, police concluded that Bronz used a plain white flag in his act, not an Israeli one, and he was never charged with a crime.
Regev on Thursday said Bronz winning the award was another reason to pass the so-called Culture Loyalty Law.
“This ‘artist’ is not a symbol of promise, but a symbol of defamation,” she said. “It’s another great example of why I should urgently promote the loyalty bill.”
Regev has come under harsh criticism from the creative community for proposing a bill that would allow her to withhold public funding for cultural organizations “that are working against the principles of the state.”
The bill would allow the government to pull funds from organizations or events that feature any of five topics or themes: Denial that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement of racism, violence, or terror; support for the armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group; marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; or any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol.
It cleared its first Knesset vote on Monday night after an hours-long, furious parliamentary debate.
Critics say the law will essentially enshrine state censorship over the arts.
Earlier on Thursday, a life-size statue of Regev was found in downtown Tel Aviv in apparent protest of her loyalty law.
The display outside Habima square has Regev in a white dress, staring at herself in an oversized mirror. A small plaque reads “#InTheHeartOfTheNation.”
In response, Regev said in response that she had indeed “held up a mirror to Israel’s culture world, a mirror that has revealed the exclusion of entire groups and the arrogance of those who saw themselves as ‘the heart of the nation.’”